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A Futile and Stupid Gesture-Review

Director: David Wain
Starring: Will Forte, Martin Mull, Domhnall Gleeson
In the 80’s, the Saturday Night Live “Not Ready For Primetime Players” were a group of some of the biggest influences in comedy still to this day. Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, John Belushi, Steve Martin, Gilda Radner, and Eddie Murphy were at their hungriest, most cocaine fueled, and funniest in the early 80’s. Seeing them in movies like “Animal House” and Caddyshack” was, to me, a way to see my favorite comics outside of their normal Saturday Night Live time slot. The magic that those comedians brought to comedy would never have been discovered if it weren’t for Doug Kenny and Henry Beard, the creative forces behind the National Lampoon. In the 70’s the National Lampoon was a National Comedy Magazine, somewhere between Life and Mad Magazine. The National Lampoon spawned a radio show, that spawned a couple of great movies that would become classics. Netflix’s “A Futile and Stupid Gesture” looks at the amazing true-life story of Doug Kenny, Will Forte (MacGruber, Ridiculous 6), and his best friend Henry Beard, Domhnall Gleeson (Star Wars), two brilliant troublemakers from Harvard, who followed their passions that changed comedy forever.
Will Forte gives an Oscar worthy performance as the funny yet troubled Doug Kenny. Doug Kenny was a brilliant individual who struggled to find a place for himself in the world. His best friend Henry was equally odd but focused on being a success in whatever he applied his mind to. The two of them decided to follow Doug’s idea and continue their Harvard Lampoon magazine tradition on a national level. They created the National Lampoon. The story follows the Harvard comedy duo as they struggle to find a publisher that will take them seriously. Then on what to they need to do on “day one” of a national magazine. Their joinery in recruiting the talent to help them make the National Lampoon happen.
“A Futile and Stupid Gesture” is a cleverly orchestrated narrative about what it took to make the National Lampoon the success that it became. Visually clever moments of breaking the fourth wall help keep the pace as fast as the the lifestyle that Kenny was trying to lead. Kenny admits what a futile gesture it was to try to keep up with the likes of John Belushi and Chevy Chase. Narrated brilliantly by Martin Mull (CLUE) as the “Older” Doug Kenny, Mulls signature voice helps layer the comedy on an already funny tale.

Joel McHale as Chevy Chase on the set of “Caddyshack” in Netflix’s “A Futile and Stupid Gesture.” (Photo by John P. Fleenor, Netflix)

The cast fills out nicely with current comedy greats Thomas Lennon(RENO 911, 17 Again) and Joel McHale (The Soup, Community), who plays the young Chevy Chase. Natasha Lyonne (American Pie, OITNB) plays Anne Beatts, the only female writer on the National Lampoon Staff. Lyonne brings a strong feminine presence to a role that had to be strong enough to handle the “Caveman Bull$hit” Doug Kenny describes going on in the offices of the Lampoon. The rest of the cast is peppered with pop culture talents like Seth Green(Robot Chicken, Buffy), Joe Lo Truglio (Superbad, Pineapple Express) , and even Leslie Nielsen (Airplane) has a cameo.

I couldn’t recommend “A Futile and Stupid Gesture” more. It’s a fitting tribute to some of the unsung heroes of comedy and a tale into how the pressure to entertain can sometimes be overwhelming for some individuals. Great job in Directing by David Wain in bringing together an ensemble cast of great budding talent. Thank you Netflix for a great, fun, tragic, and heartwarming tale of comedy.